Sennheiser HD 598 Review
- Bass is a little pronounced, which benefits certain types of music
- Fairly forgiving on poor sources and lower quality music
- Fairly easy to drive
- Midrange is not as sweet as we'd like
- Soundstage is flat
- A little overpriced in India, MRP is 50% higher than US prices
For Rs. 12,990, the HD 598 just doesn't push our buttons. It is expensive for what it offers, but sadly, there are very few competitors in this price category. It's certainly good enough for a non-audiophile, but if it were selling at a good 3000 bucks lower, we'd be more likely to bite.
Ever since I got into the hobby of ear-sized transducers, I've been wanting to sample a high-end set of Sennheiser headphones. The Germans are known for their attention to detail and insiders go as far as calling them "industry lions". The high-end consumer headphone space is a relatively small one, with a handful of names - AKG, Beyerdynamic, Grado, Sennheiser, Audio Technica, Ultrasone are the ones that immediately come to mind. Sennheiser has an ultra high-end range of dynamic headphones that start from the HD 600 and move upwards in price. The HD 598 isn't quite as lofty, and belongs a rung lower, to a bracket I'm calling "mid-fi", although their price is on the higher side by Indian standards.
The HD 598 itself is a replacement for the HD 595 which has been around for at least 4 years, and made quite a name for itself being a relatively nice sounding headphone that was not as demanding as the HD 600 on sources while being easy to drive. This made it popular for those who wanted a high performing headphone but not one that necessitated a headphone amp. Thus, for no reason of its own, the HD 598 has a bit of a legacy to live up to.
Look and feel
I mentioned the HD 598 are easy to drive, and they're also quite easy on the eye, but in a strictly mid-range sense. Unlike the HD 800 there's no use of exotic materials and metal, instead the HD 598 is constructed of plastic. In fact, a beige coloured plastic that some might like and others won't. A glossy wood-grain finish has been imparted to the earcups, and this has a nice effect, giving the HD 598 the appearance of being slightly more upmarket than they are.
The entire headphone is lightweight on account of the plastic used - 270 grams, versus the 330-gram HD 800. The headband armature around the earcups of the HD 595 received criticism on account of breakage, and it seems the HD 598 has the same sort of hinge joint. We're disappointed with Sennheiser on account of build quality, but our last session was with the HD 800, that cost 5 times more, so maybe, just maybe, we're a bit jaded and being a bit harsh.
[RELATED_ARTICLE]The earcups and headband are nicely cushioned, bordering on luxurious but not quite. While the headband does clamp securely, it's not too tight, and is quite comfortable. Audio Technica with their 3D wing design are much more comfortable though, so the HD 598 groundbreaking. Also, the earcups can start to feel hot after awhile. While this isn't as bad as earcups made of pleather, where the ear cannot breathe at all, the foam design does trap heat and you'll need to take a break every hour or so in summers, to allow your pinna to cool off! This isn't necessarily bad given that headphone listeners caution a break every hour to protect your hearing.
Instantly, it's evident that the HD 598 is positioned well below the likes of the HD 600. There's a single cable from the left earcup so no active grounding is possible. Secondly, the earphones are entirely plastic, except for the headband. Thirdly, the foam on the earcups is less velvety than the foam on the HD 600, HD 650 and so on. The cable is also a bit thinner, and about half the thickness of the HD 800 cable. Since they're lower-end, Sennheiser wanted to ensure they're relatively easier to drive as well. After all, not everyone will invest in a high-end (read $400) headphone amplifier, for a similarly priced headphone will they? Therefore, the impedance was kept at 50 ohms, unlike the 300 ohms for the other models.
In keeping with their mid-range status, you get a 6.3mm to 3.5mm converter too and the cable sheathing isn't the best we've seen for this class of headphone. While it isn't noisy, it does pick up some stray movement noise, thankfully, this isn't transmitted with any force and doesn't intrude on the music.
Click next to read more about the Sennheiser HD 598's performance, and our verdict...